I encourage parents to aim high. But there are times in life where we cannot get it all done. They are times when we are just hanging on. Fortunately, homeschool schedules can be flexible. But during times of illness, moves, and life changes school must go on.
What should the priorities be? What are the most important things to accomplish?
My mother, homeschool pioneer and author Renee Mason, used to say that if she accomplished only teaching us from God’s word, it would be a day well-spent. I have come to realize that she is right. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33. Character is the most important lesson we teach as parents. The daily habit of focused prayer and seeking truth and wisdom is always a good use of limited time. We call it personal worship in our home. Some call it devotions. Just teach them to spend time with God.
And what next? I decided while selling our home, waiting three months for a short sale to go through, with most of our possessions in storage, and then spending two months renovating our new home, that reading quality literature and writing or copywork were the priorities as well as reviewing math facts. What do you know, it’s the three Rs!
Reading is the next important priority. If you are teaching a child to read, continuity is important. If you stop, you may have to start over. If you have limited time for reading, do not waste it on trendy junk literature, or what Charlotte Mason called “twaddle”. Sure, there are books out there that are pure fun and fine to indulge in once in a while, as long as you and your children realize that they are the candy of your reading diet, the stick-in-your-teeth Laffy Taffy or Airheads of your literature menu. Choose literature that reflects your faith and family values, exposes children to a wide vocabulary and quality writing structure: the classic Winnie-the-Pooh (not the Disney versions) books, such as The House at Pooh Corner; The Wind In The Willows; or Beatrix Potter’s books. Quality children’s books can be found in the Five In A Row series, the Sonlight curriculum booklists http://www.sonlight.com/about/catalog/, the Veritas Press website https://www.veritaspress.com/, or check out The Unlikely Homeschool’s terrific booklists at http://
Next important thing to keep up with is writing! Writing can be copy work for younger children. Writing can be essay, story and report writing for older children. Handwriting is important to keep up in early education. Letter formation requires supervision, though, if your children are young. Older children can write on whatever book they are reading.
Lastly, some priority must be given to mathematics. If you do not have time to learn new math concepts, at least keep reviewing math facts. Skip counting, multiplication tables, flashcards and math games (there are great ones at RightStart Mathematics Math Card Games, 5th Edition) will keep math fresh in their minds and build speed.
If you are in crisis mode, do not be afraid to ask for help. Look to grandparents or retired relatives for help, or to family members or friends without kids for a little evening tutoring. Do not be afraid to have your kids pick up an extra chore. Chances are that they want to help and just need to be directed. Make sure someone is checking work and holding your children accountable. Lack of supervision creates an unfair temptation to cheat. Do not ask me how I know this. Just trust me. Neglect of a kid’s “job” (that is, school) is a poor lesson to teach as well. A little progress is good thing. Don’t lose momentum in your school year!
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